Quotulatiousness

April 28, 2017

Words & Numbers: Actually, Life is Pretty Awesome

Filed under: Economics, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 26 Apr 2017

This week, James and Antony take a brief departure from talking about the growing national debt, and our absurd tax system to discuss the numerous ways in which more economic and personal freedom has made people wealthier, more equal, and better off all over the world. We’re actually living in pretty amazing times.

Read more:
https://fee.org/articles/actually-life-is-pretty-awesome/

April 23, 2017

The Real Reason We Never Hear From Monty Python Anymore

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 20 Apr 2017

The legendary comedy group Monty Python was once a force of nature, influencing everything that came after them with their surreal, absurdist approach to comedy. So, why don’t we hear from them anymore? When Graham Chapman ceased to be in 1989, fellow Python member Terry Jones described it as “the worst case of party-pooping [he’d] ever seen.” His death came the day before Python’s 20th anniversary, and what followed was a bizarre but fitting eulogy, written to pay tribute to the man who’d written a dead parrot into one of the troupe’s most famous sketches. Chapman becoming an ex-person seemed to put a damper on any kind of authentic reunion, but what about the others? What happened to the late, great Monty Python?

Terry Jones’s illness | 0:44
Michael Palin’s travel shows | 1:54
John Cleese’s purism | 3:01
Terry Gilliam’s moved on | 4:13
Eric Idle’s Broadway ambitions | 5:06
They want to finish on a good note | 6:02

Read more here → http://www.grunge.com/53323/never-hear-monty-python-anymore-2/

March 27, 2017

2017 – the year of the Great Dissatisfaction

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kevin Williamson says that “our world is full of wonders, but not everyone finds a place in it”:

Once, the question the ambitious and dissatisfied asked themselves was: “How do I climb that ladder?” Current tastes run more toward smashing the ladder and the hierarchies for which it stands in the name of … whatever: feminism or anti-feminism, black liberation or white nationalism, global justice or national sovereignty.

We spend our days surrounded by great miracles and minor irritations. My friend Jay Nordlinger recently recounted how Joseph Stalin allowed the film The Grapes of Wrath to be shown in the Soviet Union, believing that to see an indictment of capitalism from within the beast itself would be salutary for the proletariat. The proletariat took another lesson from the film: The Joads, apparently the poorest people in America, had a Ford, a luxury no working man in the workers’ paradise could dream of. A similar story is told about the television series Dallas: The Soviets thought their subjects would recoil from the mischief of J. R. Ewing and his Texas oil cronies, but all the poor Russians could see was that American servants lived better than Soviet doctors and professors. If we could share our daily tales of woe with our great-grandparents — e.g., my complaints about the Wi-Fi on airplanes — they would not take from that the conclusion we intended.

We do not have a problem of privation in the United States. Not really. What we have is something related to what Arthur Brooks (“the most interesting man in Washington,” Tim Alberta calls him) describes as the need for earned success. We are not happy with mere material abundance. We — and not to go all Iron John on you, but I think “we” here applies especially to men — need to feel that we have earned our keep, that we have established a place for ourselves in the world by our labor or by other virtues, especially such masculine virtues as physical courage and endurance. I suspect that is a big part of the reason for the exaggeratedly reverential, practically sacramental attitude we current express toward soldiers, police officers, and firemen. Of course they are brave and deserve our gratitude, but if we had felt the need to ceremonially thank everyone for their service in 1948, we’d never have done anything else with our time. In 2017, there are many more jobs for courtiers than for soldiers, and the virtues earning the highest return are not bravery or toughness but conversational cleverness, skill in social navigation, excellence in bureaucracy, and keenness in finance.

[…]

And there is the paradox within our paradox: The world is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, and many of us have trouble finding our place in it, in part, because it is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, so much so that we have lost touch with certain older realities. One of those realities is that children need fathers. Another is that fathers need children.

But these are what my colleague David French calls the “wounds that public policy will not heal.” Our churches are full of people who would love to talk to you about healing, but many have lost interest in that sort of thing, too. And so they turn to Trump, to Le Pen, to Chavismo (which is what Bernie Sanders is peddling), and, perhaps, to opiate-induced oblivion. Where will they turn when they figure out — and they will figure it out — that there are no answers in these, either?

And what will we offer them?

March 18, 2017

QotD: MILFs

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’m not sure if my predilection for MILFs came naturally or if it was learned over time. I came of age in the ’70s and ’80s and back then, only pedophiles liked young girls. All our pinups were old. When Raquel Welch appeared on The Muppet Show, I started having feelings I’d never felt before. We all did and we talked about her on the swings at school. She was 38. Pretty much every man of my generation has Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease burned into his boner. She was 30 in that movie. Bailey was over 30 when WKRP was on. Loni Anderson was in her late 30s. Mary Ann wasn’t quite 30 on Gilligan’s Island, but Ginger was 33. Mr. Kotter’s wife was 31 when the show ended. Chrissy Amphlett was 10 years older than me when the Divinyls released “I Touch Myself,” but I almost had a heart attack looking at her thigh-high socks. Nobody paid attention to young girls when I was a young man. It was considered creepy. If one of them wore a Catholic school uniform on Halloween, we’d barf. There may be some disgusting perverts in the world, but in America, “MILF” tops the list of porn searches. Sure, there’s some extra meat around the waist and a little more junk in the trunk. What tepid eunuch can’t handle that? Real men are into women, not girls. No wonder blacks and Hispanics are trampling our masculinity like we’re a bunch of bitch-ass maricóns. We can barely handle a fat ass. You can keep your perky tits. I want breasts with a bit of hang to them. I’m not talking about National Geographic saggy, but if you can hold five pencils under your left one, I’ll write you a love letter. It’s like my friend Trevor once said: “I dated a chick with droopers when I was 19 and I really wasn’t into it — but I sure wouldn’t mind messing with them right now!” He looms in for the second part with a leering grin on his face. This is something young men will never understand. As Steve Coogan points out in The Trip, the spectrum of what you find attractive widens greatly as you get older.

Gavin McInnes, “In Praise of the Benjamin Button Babes”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-07-24.

March 14, 2017

The Real Reason Why Firefly Was Canceled

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 8 Aug 2016

Joss Whedon’s Firefly was poised to be the next huge sci-fi series to change television. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed after one incomplete season. Let’s look back at the reasons why Firefly‘s lights went out…

A small, loyal fan base | 0:15
Marriage trouble | 0:35
Friday night fright | 0:59
The episodes aired out of order | 1:21
The promos didn’t capture the spirit of the show | 1:45
Low ratings | 2:11
An executive defense | 2:32

March 6, 2017

Origins of the Tea Party movement

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Z Man provides a thumbnail sketch of the start of the Tea Party early in Barack Obama’s first term in office:

Back in Obama’s first months on the throne, Rick Santelli, a TV personality, was “reporting” from the floor of the stock exchange. He responded to a question about Obama’s housing plan with a rant about socialism, finishing it off with a call for a new Tea Party. Whether it was spontaneous or choreographed is hard to know, but at the time people took it to be entirely spontaneous. Santelli is a carny barker prone to getting carried away on the air and his rant had the feel of an old fashioned stem winder.

Regardless of the intent or the execution, the rant went viral and the Tea Party Movement was born. Middle America was ready to be pissed off due to the terribleness of the Bush years, so Obama’s poor start put the normies in a fighting mood. Before long people were showing up at town hall meetings, dressed as Samuel Adams, giving their congressman the business about reckless government behavior that had made a hash of things. Since the Democrats were the majority, they got the brunt of the abuse.

It did not take long for the moonbats to declare the whole thing a racist conspiracy cooked up by the twelfth invisible Hitler in league with the eternal cyclops of the KKK. This was when the fake hate crime stuff got its start as a daily phenomenon. It was also when it became apparent to a lot of people that the news is mostly fake. The increasingly deranged Nancy Pelosi, slurring about “Astroturf” was so weird, it begged a challenge, but the news people carried on like it was manifestly true.

The claim that middle aged suburbanites, dressed in tricorne hats, were paid agents of a nefarious conspiracy was so nutty that the response from the press should have been laughter and then derision. After all, it has been known for decades that the Left uses rent-a-mobs. They pay people to show up and hold signs. Unions have been doing this since the days of Jimmy Hoffa. For the Democrats to clutch their pearls and call the Tea Party inauthentic should have been too much of a farce for even the very liberal press corp.

“What could possibly account for that growth? Statistical fakery so fake that a Vegas bookie would weep”

Filed under: Media, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Daniel Greenfield on how to hoax the media into reporting on a burgeoning anti-Muslim movement in the United States:

“Huge Growth in Anti-Muslim Hate Groups During 2016: SPLC Report,” wails NBC News. “Watchdog: Number of anti-Muslim hate groups tripled since 2015,” FOX News bleats. ABC News vomits up this word salad. “Trump cited in report finding increase in US hate groups for 2nd year in a row.”

The SPLC stands for the Southern Poverty Law Center: an organization with slightly less credibility than Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, and without the academic degree in greasepaint.

And you won’t believe the shameless way the SPLC faked its latest Islamophobia crisis.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest “hate group” sightings claims that the “number of anti-Muslim hate groups increased almost three-fold in 2016.”

That’s a lot of folds.

And there is both bad news and good news from its “Year in Hate and Extremism.”

First the good news.

Casa D’Ice Signs, the sign outside a bar in K-Mart Plaza in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, is no longer listed as a hate group. The sign outside the bar had been listed as a hate group by the SPLC for years. The owner of Casa D’Ice had been known for putting politically incorrect signs outside his bar. So the SPLC listed the “signs” as a hate group. (Even though there was only one sign.) Not the bar. That would have made too much sense.

Since then Casa D’Ice was sold and the SPLC has celebrated the defeat of another hate group. Even if the hate group was just a plastic sign outside a bar.

But the bad news, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is that anti-Muslim hate groups shot up from only 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016.

What could possibly account for that growth? Statistical fakery so fake that a Vegas bookie would weep.

March 5, 2017

QotD: “Call it Fifty Shades of Orange

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The sequel to that stupid mommy porn bondage movie is now in theaters, giving naughty thrills to bored housewives whose liberal husbands can’t cut it manwise, but the real festival of S&M was in the White House as President Trump unleashed his iron discipline on the media. Call it Fifty Shades of Orange.

It wasn’t a press conference – it was a kinky dungeon session where masochistic journalists eagerly sought out the delicious pain Master T was dealing. Hack after hack stepped up, tried to play “gotcha.” and ended up whimpering in the fetal position. The best part was CNN’s Jim Acosta, fresh from whining about how conservative outlets now get to ask questions too, basically handing Trump the cat-o-nine tails. Dude, next time keep from talking yourself into more public humiliation by biting down on the ball gag.

The media’s safe word is “Objectivity,” but none of them uttered it.

The wonderful thing about Trump – and the thing that sets the Fredocons and wusspublicans fussing – is that he gives exactly zero damns about the media’s inflated and ridiculous self-image. He doesn’t pay lip service to their lie that they are anything but what Instapundit calls “Democratic Party operatives with bylines.” Trump called them the “the enemy of the American People,” to which normals responded with “Yeah, sounds about right.”

Kurt Schlicter, “President Trump Has Been Far Too Nice To The Mainstream Media”, Townhall.com, 2017-02-20.

March 4, 2017

The miniatures of Gerry Anderson’s UFO

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

One of my favourite shows in the early 1970s was UFO, by the same creator and production team of the classic “supermarionation” shows Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet. The Prop Gallery has an overview of how the miniatures used in the show were developed and filmed:

UFO is a 1970 science fiction television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and was the final production of Century 21, formally AP Films, who had previously been responsible for other hit shows such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. UFO was the Anderson’s first live action series, financed by the Incorporated Television Company (ITC) of media mogul Lew Grade who like what he saw in the Anderson produced film Doppelganger, the series was aimed at a more adult demographic than their earlier marionette based work.

The series follows a secret military organisation known as SHADO, an acronym for Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation, who defend the Earth from alien invasion under the cover of the Harlington-Straker Studios. Starring Ed Bishop as Commander Straker much of the series was filmed the MGM British Studios, later known as Elstree, which doubled as the Straker Studio in a clever money saving move. While the series may have lacked puppets it did feature Anderson’s other trademark, stunning model miniature effects sequences realised by longtime collaborator Derek Meddings who would go on to become an Academy Award winner and one of the most highly regarded and influential effects talents ever to work in the industry.

In early 1969 Century 21 set about realising the requirements for filming from their studios in Slough and work began on developing the various SHADO vehicles. Instrumental in this process were Derek Meddings and prolific designer Mike Trim who created concepts which were to bring yet another Anderson world to life. Miniatures were built in various scales by the talented Century 21 model makers, the old puppet stages used on previous shows were transformed in to fully fledged visual effects stages to handle the construction of larger model sets and filming began in April 1969 under the supervision of Meddings.

March 1, 2017

The different “flavours” of propaganda

Filed under: China, Media, Politics, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Cory Doctorow on the various types of propaganda in use around the world:

Jonathan Stray summarizes three different strains of propaganda, analyzing why they work, and suggesting counter-tactics: in Russia, it’s about flooding the channel with a mix of lies and truth, crowding out other stories; in China, it’s about suffocating arguments with happy-talk distractions, and for trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos, it’s weaponizing hate, outraging people so they spread your message to the small, diffused minority of broken people who welcome your message and would otherwise be uneconomical to reach.

Stray cites some of the same sources I’ve written about here: Tucker Max’s analysis of Yiannopoulos’s weaponized hate and The Harvard Institute for Quantitative Science team’s first-of-its kind analysis of leaked messages directing the activities of the “50-cent army, which overwhelms online Chinese conversation with upbeat cheerleading (think of Animal Farm‘s sheep-bleating, or Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s quackspeak).

But I’d never encountered the work he references on Russian propaganda, by RAND scholar Christopher Paul, who calls Russian disinformation a “firehose of falsehood.” This tactic involves having huge numbers of channels at your disposal: fake and real social media accounts, tactical leaks to journalists, state media channels like RT, which are able to convey narrative at higher volume than the counternarrative, which becomes compelling just by dint of being everywhere (“quantity does indeed have a quality all its own”).

Mixing outright lies with a large dollop of truth is key to this tactic, as it surrounds the lies with a penumbra of truthfulness. This is a time-honored tactic, of course: think of the Christian Science Monitor‘s history of outstanding international coverage, accompanied by editorials about God’s ability to heal through prayer; or Voice of America‘s mixture of excellent reporting on (again) international politics and glaring silence on US crises (see also: Al Jazeera as a reliable source on everything except corruption in the UAE; the BBC World Service‘s top-notch journalism on everything except UK complicity in disasters like the Gulf War, etc).

In addition to this excellent taxonomy of propaganda, Stray proposes countermeasures for each strain: for Russia-style “firehoses of falsehood,” you have to reach the audience first with an alternative narrative; once the firehose is on, it’s too late. For Chinese quackspeak floods, you need “organized, visible resistance” in the streets. For pathetic attention-whores like Yiannopoulos, Stray says Tucker Max is right: you have to ignore him.

February 3, 2017

“In a secular age … it is inevitable that people will attach themselves like limpets to miniature religions”

Filed under: Cancon, History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh draws some parallels between the early Federalists in post-revolutionary America and the mainstream media today: both groups attempted to retain their privileged position in society as that society changed dramatically all around them:

But now the seeds of fleeting confusion have fallen into the fertile soil of Internet crap-mongering. On social media there were immediate, unabashed, conflicting total lies circulating about the identities of the “two” perpetrators. Now, before much is known at all of the actual killer, we are seeing deliberately engineered hints at some kind of inexplicable cover-up by the (Muslim-controlled?!) police of Quebec, or by higher authorities — Liberals, reptoids, George Soros clones? Pick your poison!

Those trivial little wobbles in the initial news coverage are being exploited by journalists and commentators who have abandoned respect for facts like “there are always reports of a second shooter” in favour of efficient, direct manipulation of “the narrative.” The actual full-fledged conspiracy theories are being designed as we speak, and soon will be ready for harvest.

We live in a post-revolutionary media environment, and traditional newspapers and broadcasters are like the American Federalists: we are hoping to stay on top as trusted, sensible informers and teachers. I make no claim that this hope is well-founded or appropriate, but either way, the strategy did not end very well for the Federalists. One notices that they are already in irreversible, humiliating retreat at the moment when Wood’s book begins.

There is money in offering an alternative account, any alternative account of anything important or dramatic, to the gullible. Build a suspicious audience of millenarians and ignoramuses, and some of them will keep following you until you can start selling them protein supplements, bulk food for the apocalypse, religious knick-knacks, or penis pills. (Which business line will Rebel Media break into first? It’s only a matter of time!)

In a secular age, like ours or like the late 18th century, it is inevitable that people will attach themselves like limpets to miniature religions. Today they range from gold-bugs to survivalist “preppers” to disturbingly overenthusiastic Harry Potter fans to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. (My apologies to those readers, and I’m sure there are a few, who are devotees of all four faiths.) Such subcultures are the reliable basis of a bulletproof “news” media model. The horrible part is this: they might be the only such model.

February 2, 2017

The genesis of Fake News

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Victor Davis Hanson on the modern-day phenomenon of “fake news”:

… all politicians fib and distort the truth — and they’ve been doing so since the freewheeling days of the Athenian ekklesia. Trump’s various bombastic allegations and claims fall into the same realm of truthfulness as Obama’s statement “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” — and were thus similarly cross-examined by the media.

Yet fake news is something quite different. It is not merely a public figure’s spinning of half-truths. It is largely a media-driven, and deliberate attempt to spread a false narrative to advance a political agenda that otherwise would be rejected by a common-sense public. The methodology is to manufacture a narrative attractive to a herd-like progressive media that will then devour and brand it as fact — and even lobby for government redress.

Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen has never been to Prague to negotiate quid pro quo deals with the Russians. Trump did not watch Russian strippers perform pornographic acts in the bedroom that Barack Obama once stayed in during a visit to Moscow. Yet political operatives, journalists, and even intelligence officers, in their respective shared antipathy to Trump, managed to lodge these narratives into the public consciousness and thereby establish the “truth” that a degenerate Trump was also a Russian patsy.

No one has described the methodology of fake news better than Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor for Barack Obama and brother of the president of CBS News, David Rhodes. Ben Rhodes cynically bragged about how the Obama administration had sold the dubious Iran deal through misinformation picked up by an adolescent but sympathetic media (for which Rhodes had only contempt). As Rhodes put it, “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

Translated, that meant that Rhodes and his team fed false narratives about the Iran Deal to a sympathetic but ignorant media, which used its received authority to report those narratives as “truth” — at least long enough for the agreement to be passed before its multitudinous falsehoods and side-agreements collapsed under their own weight. “We created an echo chamber,” Rhodes bragged to the New York Times: “They [reporters] were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

February 1, 2017

“The media think only the Left can get angry, and that it is their exclusive right”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

David Warren, our 13th century correspondent, checks in with a look at the quality of frothing hysteria on display in the 21st century:

I love phrases like “frothing hysteria.” They are so frothing, so hysterical. Over the weekend I heard this one from both sides of the current American Civil War. It hasn’t got to uniforms, yet — you can’t get people to dress properly, these days — but it has become obvious that the line is drawn between the Red and the Blue. I have mixed colours in my paintbox to produce to my satisfaction what might be called a “Trumpf Red” and an “Alinsky Blue.” Blood red was incidentally the old Tory colour, before the Communists stole it; Whigs were often sky blue; Yankee colour schemes are thus stuck in the eighteenth century. (Bravo!)

The breaking news is that the Left are freaking out. But this is an old story. They’ve been doing that for decades, whenever they don’t seem to be getting their way. It is part of the power formula, not only for them but for the average three-year-old. … “What do we want?” … “Goo-goos!” … “When do want them?” … “Now!”

Rather, the curious development through the recent American election is that the Right are freaking, too. The Left may not follow this because it isn’t covered in their electronic newspapers. They have really no idea what is going on, or has been going on — what bugs these people in the broad space between the several Left Coasts. Ever gracious, I told them that Trump was going to win, even though I didn’t much like the man myself; but they didn’t believe me. (Perhaps they don’t read my Idleposts!) They couldn’t imagine such a thing: like that great genius Pauline Kael, sainted expositor of leftishness and Hollywood movies, who could not understand how Nixon had won when everyone she knew had voted for McGovern.

[…]

Too, they reason — and gentle reader may mark my words on this — that they are up against the leftist tactic of concentrating all available forces on one target at a time. This always wins, against a dispersed, purely defensive enemy. Now the Bannon Brigade are counter-attacking on nineteen fronts, and counting. Let’s see how those, who haven’t played defence for a long long time, will handle it. My guess would be through an extremely incoherent Long Hot Summer.

Risky, risky, any counter-attack strategy. Capitulation is much safer. But sometimes you get sick of always losing, and resolve to try something new, by way of experiment; or in this case something old, that hasn’t been tried for a while, against opponents who have grown smug and self-satisfied.

For decades the Left have been playing for keeps. The Right have been playing for mercy. With Trump, those Red State types — “progressively” deprived of elementary freedoms, of their dignity, and even of their livelihoods — have voted to play for keeps, too. They were used to shrugging and taking their lumps, from politicians they happened to despise. The politicians were used to administering the lumps, to their own fabulous enrichment. Suddenly the simpletons — or deplorables, as they now prefer — decide they’ve had enough. (Americans can be like that sometimes.) Elitist and anti-populist that I am, anti-nationalist and anti-tribalist, I kind of understand it.

The media think only the Left can get angry, and that it is their exclusive right. They are making a splash of how angry they can get, on the old assumption that it will intimidate the simpletons. Yet this is the very assumption they have pushed too far. For Middle America is in one of those Clint Eastwood moods. And the cameras are rolling, on frothing and hysteria; versus “make my day.”

In a kinda-sorta-related post that Megan McArdle shared on Facebook, Brink Lindsey tries to advise the anti-Trump folks that they’re not going to weaken Il Donalduce by the tactics they’ve employed so far:

To all my FB friends who are alarmed after the first week of the Trump administration: we’re all trying to think about what to do, how to contribute, how to make a difference. Here’s something all of us can do, every single one of us: expunge all anger and hatred and contempt from the way we express our political disagreement with others.

Toxic partisanship, in which the other side is not simply disagreed with but demonized and effectively non-personed, has been building for some time now. Social media has turbo-charged the process. We have to start undoing it.

You have to tell yourself: I want to do good, not just feel good. Expressions of righteous indignation and calling out the other side are political masturbation. They feel great: condemnation of others is always implicit self-glorification. But they produce nothing — just defensive anger in return. What we need to do to Trump supporters isn’t hate on them, but persuade them to become ex-Trump supporters.

Instead of criticizing the other side, talk about what you both love: this country. Express your concern and sorrow about what’s going on, not your anger. Encountering your anger brings out your opponents’ aggressive defensiveness; encountering you sadness may bring out their empathy.

Give reasons for why you’re worried. None of this: it’s un-American, it’s unthinkable, this isn’t my country. That’s trying to shame your opponent, not trying to persuade them. To persuade someone you need to start with what you’ve got in common — you’ve got to concede that they genuinely have the country’s best interests at heart. And make it clear that’s where you’re coming from as well: genuine patriotic concern based on shared American ideals.

It seems absurd to say all this when all the incentives now, for both the political operators and the political spectators, are pushing in the opposite direction. But you’ve got to start somewhere. We can start by making things a tiny bit better every time we voice our opinion instead of making things a tiny bit worse.

January 31, 2017

MSM bias is baked-in, and has been for generations

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In last week’s Goldberg File, Jonah Goldberg talked about the default left-leaning mainstream media (that’s most of the media):

I agree with pretty much all of the right-wing criticism of the mainstream media these days, or at least the intelligent stuff, of which there has been plenty. What the MSM still fails to appreciate is the degree to which they’ve spent the last 40 years — at least — presenting news as unbiased and objective when it was in fact coated with, saturated in, and bent by all manner of confirmation biases, self-serving narratives, assumptions, and ideological priorities that leaned left. No, it wasn’t all “fake news” (man, am I exhausted by the ridiculous misuse of that term), at least not most of the time [insert outrage over Duranty’s Pulitzer, Janet Cooke’s and Steve Glass’s fabulations, and of course that time Dan Rather climbed the jackass tree only to hurl himself down, hitting every branch].

I would even go so far as to argue that most of the time liberal bias isn’t even deliberate. Maybe because I’ve been reading so much public-choice theory and psychology stuff of late, I tend to credit conspiracy theories less and groupthink more for the wayward state of the mainstream media (though Mark Hemingway makes a good point about Plowshares’ sub rosa complicity in pushing the Iran deal). Still, the more you get to know elite “objective” journalists, the more you can appreciate that they are trying to do it right. But it also becomes all the more obvious that they live in a social milieu where the borders between the Democratic party, liberal activism, and liberal experts are very, very fuzzy.

For instance, last week I wrote about that ridiculous article in the Washington Post accusing David Gelernter of being “anti-intellectual.” Much of the Post’s “reporting” hinged on a lengthy, catty quote from a member of the Union of Concern Scientists. As I noted, the Union of Concerned Scientists has always been a political operation. It’s a classic example of an outfit that liberal journalists invest with non-partisan authority so they can pass off partisan views as “science” or some other objective expertise.

In 1985, the editors of National Review wrote:

    The Union of Concerned Scientists, except for the publicity it commands, can be dismissed. It has been a scandal for years — a letterhead with a few distinguished names acting as shills for a membership of left-wing laymen (anyone can be a Concerned Scientist, just by paying the membership fee).

Countless activists-in-experts-clothing organizations run on some variant of this model, from the Women’s Sports Foundation to the National Resources Defense Council.

Reporters routinely call experts they already agree with knowing that their “takes” will line up with what the reporter believes. Sometimes this is lazy or deadline-driven hackery. But more often, it’s not. And that shouldn’t surprise us. Smart liberal reporters are probably inclined to think that smart liberal experts are right when they say things the smart liberal reporters already agree with.

For these and similar reasons, liberal ideas and interpretations of the facts sail through while inconvenient facts and conservative interpretations send up ideological red flags. Think of editors like security guards at a military base. They tend to wave through the people they know and the folks with right ID badges. But when a stranger shows up, or if someone lacks the right credential, then the guards feel like they have to do their job. This is the basic modus operandi for places like Vox, which seek to explain not the facts or the news, but why liberals are right about the facts and the news.

January 29, 2017

QotD: Perverse incentives for journalists

Filed under: Health, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Unfortunately, the incentives of both academic journals and the media mean that dubious research often gets more widely known than more carefully done studies, precisely because the shoddy statistics and wild outliers suggest something new and interesting about the world. If I tell you that more than half of all bankruptcies are caused by medical problems, you will be alarmed and wish to know more. If I show you more carefully done research suggesting that it is a real but comparatively modest problem, you will just be wondering what time Game of Thrones is on.

Megan McArdle, “The Myth of the Medical Bankruptcy”, Bloomberg View, 2017-01-17.

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